Swimming


11 June 2021


Swimming


Carly pointed out Zora Neale Hurston’s words within Mason Currey’s book, Daily Rituals: Women at Work,


“I do not know whether you ever went down to the Matanza river in your pig-tail days to fish and caught a toad fish. You know if they are swallowed by a big fish, they will eat their way out through the walls of its stomach. That is like the call to write. You must do it irregardless, or it will eat its way out of you anyhow.” (72)


This passage touched me to my deepest parts. It’s truth, for me. There is nothing that could, at this point, keep it inside of me. It will come out. Whether or not I share it – that’s another story entirely.

 

Earlier this morning, we stood in front of the empty home together and looked at the weather radar:

“It’s jumping Minot, again,” Brian said.


The potent storm system encrcled the base, but the sky above our heads was perfectly clear. You could see the clouds 365 degrees around us, out at a distance…yet the sun shone bright on our faces.


I shrugged, “Well, maybe I can get a run.”


Brian headed off to work, and I headed back to snag a quick three-miler before my lunch with Gretchen.


Lexi was thrilled; it was the first time she’d been allowed to run with me in four months because of my hip injury. She was visibly (and audibly) vibrating with excitement as she waited for me to suit up and lace up.


The first mile of our run was uneventful. The sun shone, the birds sang, the dog did her business, and we were giddy with our slow and carefree pace. The wind pressed persistently from behind, blowing my ponytail forward about my ears, but this is nothing unusual for Minot. We turned north at the main gate, into base housing. Just as we passed the housing office, I noticed the sky was – sort of – spitting sideways. The left side of my face – it was like a razor mist cutting at my cheek. It was not particularly uncomfortable, so although I noted it, we maintained our course and pace. Surely, it wouldn’t last long; the sun still shone. My eyes darted about the sky, searching for a rainbow, but were somehow blind to the gun smoke clouds creeping from the west.


Turning west on Rocket was when the weather finally captured my active attention. Facing into the wind, my sunglasses became smeary, protecting my eyes from prickling rain instead of sun. That glorious orb had suddenly disappeared – any hope of a rainbow along with it. Of course, it crossed my mind after running east with my ponytail whipping about my ears that turning west meant I’d be running directly into the wind; however, at that time, there had been no moisture. Now, however, the wind had turned into muscly gusts conveying tiny needle drops of water; they stung, some big, some small, about my chest, neck, and chin as I tilted my head down to protect my face with my visor.


About two blocks into our westward trek on Rocket, I snuck a quick peek at Lexi: her face was still happy, and I knew that the pelt would not harm her (thank goodness for fur), but her waterlogged ears blew straight back with the wind – nearly parallel with the pavement. The fur on her snout turned dark brown, densely wet. She looked at me, her tongue caught in the wind and lolled sideways, and she gave me a goofy half-smile:

I’m OK, mama. I love you.


“My good girl. I love you, too!”


We lumbered on into the tempest.


This was not the first, nor will it likely be the last, time I’ve gotten caught in a storm on a run. There was the hail in Abilene, while I cowered in the Comm Squadron’s two-foot-deep entryway (the building was locked tight). That day, in my terror, I accepted an offer from a stranger-spouse to drive me home and completely soaked the front seat of her car. She was so sweet. Once, at Brian’s parents’ house, a less violent but more drenching deluge caught me at mile three of five. That day I learned how very heavy sneakers can get while running in a downpour. Then, the tornadoes last year here on base! The storm that day chased me two miles before it caught up to me: its snarling fury flashed and crashed at my back, pushing me faster, faster in my fear. I cowered under the entryway awning at North Plains, listening intently to the base warning siren and the garbled, incomprehensible big giant voice system alerting me of – existential dangers, I’m sure? Thankfully, it was a weekend and Brian was home to come pick me up; I scrambled into the car, bone-rattled and shivery. "You know that's a tornado siren, right?" he said. I mean...claro que no.


Today was different. There was no lightning. There was no thunder. There was no tornado siren, no hail, and no torrent. Today was just knock-you-down wind and skin-blistering mini raindrops. On Rocket, two spouses pulled their cars over and offered me rides home, which I declined. Surely it wouldn't be so bad once I turned south out of the wind.


After turning south, another spouse slowed her car, opened her window, and offered me a lift, which I also declined. Come on, I was within a mile – was it really worth destroying the interior of someone’s car? Also, there was no danger, was there? Just discomfort...?


Further south, a fourth car pulled over with an open window and a woman yelled something unintelligible at me. I gave her a thumbs’ up, yelled, “I’m good!” and kept going – but deep deep deep in my brain, something nagged: She said something different from the first three; what if she was warning you about severe weather, and I missed it? My phone is on silent…what if I've not heard the Team Minot app as it’s trying to warn to seek shelter?


A thrusting gust threw my right ankle hard into my left, nearly knocking my leg out from under me. I stumbled and then tripped over Lexi's hindquarters, barely avoiding a faceplant on the pavement.


Finally, it dawned on me: my ambition to get a full three miles was greater than my will to live. Greater than my general survival instinct. There was something irrational about that! I caved to survival mode and veered us east as a “shortcut” back to the safety of our temporary home. We will make it.


Through volley and puddle, Lexi tripping me because she didn’t know where she was anymore (poor thing didn’t have eye protection!), we made it back to our haven alive. Just as I approached the door, British Siri chimed gaily from my watch, “Three point zero miles,” and something inside of me threw a petite fête.


Water ran in sheets off my visor as my shaking hands opened the door and I called for a child to bring the dog a towel…we were oversaturated and overstimulated, but we were fine.


Later at lunch, I joked with Gretchen that Lexi and I weren’t running, we were swimming, and I forgot my snorkel. That’s ok; this was just another moment in this life – real life – in all its glory and adventure. Take the risks. Too often, they’re worth it – and at the very least, you’re creating memories and a story. It doesn’t even matter if the memory is yours, alone. I do a lot of things alone that are worthwhile. Today was just one more…another drop in my bucket, and they’re adding up…someday, they will comprise the vast ocean that has been my life.




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